The Easiest Way (1931)
Release date: February 7, 1931
Directed by: Jack Conway
Available on DVD through The Warner Brothers Archive Collection
In this scandalous pre-code, Lolly Murdock (Bennett) is a young woman anxious to escape her impoverished family. She quickly realizes that the easiest way to do that is by being “kept” by rich men. She begins an affair with afluent businessman William (Menjou), who keeps her in furs and expensive jewels. Although this brings her the riches and lifestyle she has always dreamed of, it alienates her from the man she really loves (Montgomery) and her family. Especially her sister, Peg (Page), who married hard-working blue collar Nick (Gable), who bans Lolly from their house for her indecent behavior.
Photoplay magazine, March 1932
This one is modern, sophisticated, beautifully directed, superbly acted by Constance Bennett, Adolph Menjou, Bob Montgomery, Anita Page and the rest, and stunningly costumed. It isn’t important enough to be a great picture, but it’s certainly worth it’s celluloid weight in entertainment. In it, Connie Bennett is a luxurious lady who falls in love with a poor man. Menjou is the wealthy lover, of course.
Picture Play magazine, June 1931
Brought up to date with considerable skill, the play that created a sensation on the stage some twenty years ago emerges as a rather interesting film. Time has, however, robbed it of its daring. You will find the heroine, Laura Murdock, one of the familiar sisterhood who exchange poverty in the tenements for the luxury of modernistic apartments with all convienences, including a duplicate key in the hands of a rich man. But instead of the modern accompainment of wisecracks Laura goes in for old-fashioned suffering.
Realistically the squalor of Laura’s home life is pictured to excuse her choice of the easiest way to escape it. Then she meets a young man who offers her love instead of money and they plan to marry with the knowledge of Laura’s cher ami. But her fiance is ordered to South America and she promises to wait for him. No longer a kept woman, she shifts for herself and makes a bad job of it. Her discarded friend waits, sure that she will return. She does, when everything is pawned. Joyfully her young man returns to claim her and learns the truth. He flings at her a bitter invective and leaves for good, while she wanders brokenly in the snow to her sister’s home on Christmas Eve.
All this is related with movement, deftness of characterization, some suspence, and little emotional reaction. Constance Bennett is symapthetic as Laura, though she fails to make you believe that she is swept into her troubles without calculation. She does, however, convince you that she thinks and that is saying a lot. Adolphe Menjou is brilliantly successful as the pseudo-villain, who is so much a human being and a gentleman that he is no villain at all. Robert Montgomery returns to form as the young lover and makes us forget his defection in “Inspiration.” Minor roles are admirably performed by Anita Page, Clark Gable and Marjorie Rambeau.
“Hello, Billy! Peg gone to work yet?” first lines
“I don’t like you looking so tired.”
“Would you rather me have given you a ring? I made a payment on a lot instead!”
“I ain’t stuck on having you drive up here in your fine cars and limousines. We ain’t limousine people.”
“You don’t help Peg with the neighbors–they’re wise. And you don’t help my business none.”
“Come on, Laura.” last line
Behind the Scenes:
Constance Bennett was apparently quite the diva on set and refused to even acknowledge the presence of Clark and Anita when the cameras weren’t rolling. Clark remembered this and did not take too kindly of her flirting with him when they were more even on the star roster years later during the filming of After Office Hours.
Anita Page claimed that she and Clark had an affair during filming.